Many stars shone out that night; they assisted in the solemn and the sacred watch. The mother looked at the faces of her sleeping sons, and listened to their heavy breathing; they had but started on the journey of life.
She turned to her husband: it was but the wreck of a deserted house, the tenant had departed.
The warrior was already far on his journey; ere this, he had reached the lodge where the freed spirit adorns itself ere entering upon its new abode.
Some days after, Harpstenah entered her native village, bearing a precious burden. Strapped to her back was the body of her husband. By day, she had borne it all the weary way; at night, she had stopped to rest and to weep. Nor did her strength fail her, until she reached her home; then, insensible to sorrow and fatigue, she sunk to the earth.
The women relieved her from the burden, and afterwards helped her to bury her dead.
Many waters could not quench her love, nor could the floods drown it. It was strong as death.
Well might she sit in her lodge and weep! The village where she passed her childhood and youth was deserted. Her husband forgotten by all but herself. Her two sons were murdered by the Chippeways, while defending their mother and their young brother.
Well might she weep! and tremble too, for death among the Dahcotahs comes as often by the fire water purchased from the white people, as from the murderous tomahawk and scalping-knife of the Chippeways.
Nor were her fears useless; she never again saw her son, until his body was brought to her, his dark features stiff in death. The death blow was given, too, by the friend who had shamed him from listening to his mother’s voice.
* * * * *
What wonder that she should not heed the noise of the tempest! The storms of her life had been fiercer than the warring of the elements. But while the fountains of heaven were unsealed, those of her heart were closed forever. Never more should tears relieve her, who had shed so many. Often had she gone into the prairies to weep, far from the sight of her companions. Her voice was heard from a distance. The wind would waft the melancholy sound back to the village.
“It is only Harpstenah,” said the women. “She has gone to the prairies to weep for her husband and her children.”
The storm raged during the night, but ceased with the coming of day. The widowed wife and childless mother was found dead under the scaffold where lay the body of her son.
The Thunder Bird was avenged for the death of his friend. The strength of Red Deer had wasted under a lingering disease; his children were dead; their mother lay beside her youngest son.
The spirit of the waters had not appeared in vain. When the countenance of Unktahe rests upon a Dahcotah, it is the sure prognostic of coming evil. The fury of the storm spirits was spent when the soul of Harpstenah followed her lost ones.